Friday, April 18, 2014
A Toy Story Legend
Via Silly Putty History
Peter Hodgson, Sr., (1912-1976) who starred in this 1951 Silly Putty TV commercial, was just another ad man down on his luck, writing copy for a small toy store catalog in New Haven, Connecticut when he first launched the idea of marketing a blob of silicone goop as a toy. The plastic goop was actually a failed experiment from General Electric scientists in New Haven who were looking to develop a synthetic rubber. Soon the non-toxic goo became the topic of conversation at a cocktail party where Mr. Hodgson first learned of it.
"Everybody kept saying there was no earthly use for the stuff, but I watched them as they fooled with it. I couldn't help noticing how people with busy schedules wasted as much as 15 minutes at a shot just fondling and stretching it" Hodgson later recalled.
After placing his first ad in the 1949 toy catalog, Hodgson borrowed $147 to package and fill orders. Silly Putty soon became an overnight success. Sales of the seemingly useless goo packaged in a plastic egg quickly expanded into 22 other countries, reaching over $5 million in annual sales. Mr. Hodgson was living the dream.
Via Click Americana
"The Real Solid Liquid" as Silly Putty came to be known, was an American toy story legend simply because Mr. Hodgson viewed the useless silicone blob through a new set of eyes. From trash to treasure—he didn't see it as a failed experiment—he saw it as "fun for the whole family." It's all just context. With a logo of putty-like lettering, and packaging of a faux wood-grained television set, Silly Putty was ready for prime time.
For many of us, it was also our first introduction to printmaking. Who couldn't resist pulling impressions of favorite comic characters and stretching them until they snapped? This toy was magic—it could do anything!
Though seemingly harmless...it was not. I'm sure I wasn't alone to find I was the victim of another bad haircut after falling asleep with Silly Putty—only to wake up with it embedded in my hair. Or to leave it to rest on a desk in the sun, and return later to find it in a melted puddle of putty on the floor.
If you find yourself off to an Easter egg hunt this weekend, I hope you find a brightly-colored plastic egg with a blob of goop inside. Just don't eat it.